Bars and Restaurants Challenge Michigan Law Banning Promotional Products, Part 2
The retailers want to use the product and the wholesalers want to uphold the prohibition, but what does the last part of the three-tier system want? Michigan has a strong brewer's culture: the state is home to more than 100 craft breweries, and Grand Rapids was just named "Beer City USA" in a national poll. Shouldn't these proud companies want to, and be able to, promote their products in their home state?
The answer to that question, it turns out, is hard to find. When contacted for this story, no brewery would speak on the record about the MLCCA or the use of promotional products in the state's taverns. One source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said some manufacturers are working with the state and the wholesalers to change different MLCCA provisions that limit a brewery's ability to expand. The beer makers don't want to take on another battle, especially one that would put them at odds with their wholesaler partners.
Craft breweries and microbreweries also have another reason not to change the regulations regarding branded merchandise: they're exempt from the laws. Brewpubs owned and operated by a manufacturer are allowed to use promotionals with beer-centric logos, meaning they are free to advertise product using pint glasses and napkins in ways other bars cannot.
Caught in the middle of this are Michigan's promotional products professionals, who are effectively cut out from one of the most popular markets for logoed merchandise. The state is home to hundreds of supplier and distributor companies who are contending with laws no one else in the country faces. As Paul Kiewiet, executive director for the Michigan Promotional Products Association (MiPPA) said, "If they were to try to limit advertising on other media, there would be outcries for violation of the First Amendment."
Fortunately, change may be coming in the future. Michigan governor Rick Snyder has reached out to local business owners and asked them to review the state's liquor laws and make recommendations for changes. One of the proposals before Snyder's committee requested that the state "remove all prohibitions on Secondary Use items that are provided by suppliers." The committee voted 12-6 in favor of that recommendation, and while not binding, it does give hope.
As of now, nothing has formally moved beyond the exploratory phase, so there is still time to act. Michigan distributors who have been impacted by the laws can write their local representatives to explain how the MLCCA negatively affects the promotional products industry. Interested parties can find a list of all of Michigan's senators and representatives on www.legislature.mi.gov.